Let’s not let bullying claim any more victims

| November 4, 2010 | 0 Comments

Bullying is never OK.

Period.

It is never acceptable to call someone names, harass them or demean them because of what they look like, how they act or what they say.

We know bullying is wrong; our children know it, too. But we also know that it happens all too often in school hallways, on playgrounds and on computers, where cyberbullying is a growing problem.

Studies have indicated that 15 to 25 percent of students are bullied with some frequency. And, one survey of high school youth found that 4 percent missed at least one day of school in the previous month be­cause they were frightened or intimidated by someone.

Tragic consequences

The effects of prolonged bullying can be devastating: diminished self-esteem, poor grades and increased social isolation. In some cases, victims may resort to violence, directing it at others or even themselves.

That’s what happened at a college recently in a case that made national headlines: A Rutgers University freshman committed suicide last September after other students allegedly posted footage on the Internet of his sexual encounter with another male student.

The incident was soon followed by another disturbing report. A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that two out of three Americans believe gay people commit suicide at least partly because of anti-gay messages they believe are professed by churches and other places of worship.

With regard to the Catholic Church, in particular, that would be a misreading of what it teaches. The church calls all non-married people — including gay people — to chastity, but it also teaches that homosexual persons must be treated with respect and compassion.

Picking on or hurting someone because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation is, like other forms of bullying, never OK. It must be condemned and, when it occurs, the perpetrators must be punished appropriately. We should never knowingly allow someone’s God-given human dignity to be violated.

Taking action

We shouldn’t forget, however, that students are targeted by bullies for a variety of reasons.

Thankfully, schools today are more attuned to the subject of bullying, and many have good programs in place to address the issue with students and staff. Our Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs are uniquely equipped as well to address bullying by sharing Gospel lessons and the church’s teachings about the value of each and every human life.

We parents as well should address the topic at home with our children as part of a daily check-in about the school day. And, we need to stay in touch with what’s happening on our children’s computer screens and smart phones in an age when bullying can easily take place on Facebook pages and in text messages.

Even if our children themselves aren’t the direct victims of bullying, we need to be clear that doing nothing when they see others being bullied is also unacceptable.

Children need to be reassured they can talk to parents, teachers or other trusted adults who can help put an end to such abuse.

They themselves can help by reaching out a hand of friendship to victims.

Bullying is never OK. And while it might be naïve to think we can eradicate it totally, we can take additional steps in our schools and homes to reduce the number of children who are still being hurt on a daily basis.

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Category: Editorials